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What’s the deal with Manuka honey? I’ll tells ya!

May 02, 2011

What’s the deal with Manuka honey? I’ll tells ya!

My good friend Mel (which is ironically the Latin word for honey. Coincidence? No.) recently came back to the land of Maple Syrup after about 2 years of living the good life as a pirate/disgruntled car-licence issuer/giant skiing parrot in the other land down-under. I do mean New Zealand, of course.  We met up, and exchanged gifts and long chats. She brought me THE AWESOMEST GIFT EVER….a big jar of Manuka honey from this company. I am overjoyed!

Manuka flower and honeybee

Now, I don’t know what’s up with New Zealand, per se, but they do seem to have more than their fair-share of awesome botanicals, so many of which seem to have potent anti-bacterial properties. There must be an explanation for this, and if you know, please enlighten me because I don’t feel like googling it right now.

As for Manuka honey, you’ve probably seen these expensive pots o’ golden wonder at your local health food stores. $20-$30 for honey may seem expensive (and really, it is) but there’s a reason why. Let’s look at these reasons, shall we?

What is manuka?

Simply put, manuka is the blossom of a relative of the Tea Tree plant. They are pretty little white flowers that bees go gaga over.

You know how Tea Tree is an amazing antiseptic and basically works miracles on skin issues? Ok. Right.  But, you know how honey is an amazing antiseptic and basically works miracles on skin issues? Well, manuka honey is all that, squared. Cubed, even. We’re talking exponential awesomeness!

Manuka pollen

First things first; manuka honey is honey made of  manuka pollen, just as our Canadian honey varieties are made of clover and other, slightly more yawn-inducing flowers. Many varieties of manuka honey supply a pollen count on the jar, indicating the minimum percentage of manuka pollen used in production of the honey. The one I was gifted guarantees 70+, and the back of the jar states that my batch has been tested as 77% manuka pollen. Pretty neat!


A long-ass history of healing

You just can’t argue with mega old traditions and beliefs. Well, maybe some that require ritualistic human sacrifice… but not when eating plants, and plant-derived things, are involved. As far as I am concerned, if people have been using something for hundreds of years and have experienced benefits then that’s good enough for me. Honey has been cherished for its healing properties for thousands of years. Although beekeeping in New Zealand only began in 1848, so Manuka Honey is still a new honey on the block. None the less, people have been using this sweet magical goo to treat infections and disease for a very long time. If that’s not good enough for you, modern research has also proven that manuka honey is not only effective as an antiseptic in the traditional honey sense (most honeys contain an enzyme that releases hydrogen peroxide….tasty!) but also retain the active properties of the manuka plant but also having special anti-microbial properties of it’s very own, making it a special honey. To ensure you are getting a high-quality manuka honey, look for a UMF rating  on the jar (Unique Manuka Factor) of no less than 5, and optimally between 12-15. This is the standardized testing method to ensure that there’s a high rate of non-peroxide antibacterial superpowers.


The taste of manuka honey is a little less sweet than the standard Canadian varieties that I’m used to. It has a bit of an edge, kinda peppery or smoky. It DOES NOT taste like Tea Tree oil! Which is great, because if you’ve ever had that potent essential oil in your mouth, you know it’s none too pleasant.

How to use it.

Great. Now, what can you do with it? First off, you can eat it. It is just honey, after all!

  • My fave way, besides in a cup (or jar, as I have been doing) of green tea, a little manuka honey dissolved in a glass of water, with a squeeze of organic lemon is an amazing, refreshing and healthy lemonade alternative that I try to throw back before downing my regular massive morning coffee. This is amazing for digestive ailments, of which I have my fair-share (TMI? Sorry.).
  • You can make a face mask. Easiest. Mask. Ever. You can go straight-up manuka, or add a dash of milk for some gentle exfoliation (or yogurt, as you wish) or even a drop or two of your favourite carrier oil, such as Argan oil. More than just clearing up your complexion, manuka honey is chock-full of antioxidants. You know how great those are for your skin!
  • Honey is a humectant, which means it actually draws moisture from the air and slaps it on your face. Dry legs/knees/elbows/hands? Do a little honey pack, rinse off after 15 mins, and reveal dewy-fresh skin. Yum!
  • Prepare a spot treatment if you’re having a break-out: a dab of manuka honey plus a drop of Tea Tree. Magic!
  • Use it to disinfect, obv. Got a cut? A scrape? Athletes foot? You know what to do!

I’m planning on putting a little honey in a small pot and carrying it around me, like the crazed hippie than I am. Seriously. Yesterday, I experimented on a scrape my bf got after a football game, and he said it tingled like it was up to something, and today that scrape has healed quicker than the others. Also, my skin is wicked soft from my face mask, and my chalky legs are buttery smooth. Proof!

Oh, and it tastes good, so whatever.